Interview with Susan Ryder

This month, we shine a lamplight on New English artist Susan Ryder, best known for her portraits and interior paintings. We are delighted that Susan found time to tell us about her influences and inspirations as she finalises preparations for her forthcoming solo exhibition with Panter & Hall in London. It's wonderful to see galleries opening their doors again after being closed throughout the peak of the pandemic, and Susan starts by reflecting on how this has impacted on her painting process . . .

“Since the greatest source of inspiration for me has always been interior light, lockdown has not been a problem. With time, lamplight, and a family house with rooms I love, I have been able to continue painting happily for my next solo show at Panter and Hall in late September.


Drawing Room Sunlight' 


My father, a naval officer and good amateur painter was my first influence. I remember, when aged about ten, sketching from his converted fishing boat in some Brittany harbour. I complained that the lighthouse had moved. No one believed me until it was discovered with some panic, that the anchor was dragging!


He would take me to draw stuffed animals in the Natural History Museum, which I found embarrassing. Then, at sixteen, he encouraged me to apply to study at the Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting but adding as a caution that only nine living artists were supporting themselves just through painting.


I had loved doing the stage sets at school and so I decided this was what I would train for. Now half a century later as I ‘arrange’ my interiors, switching on the lamps and my spotlight, I feel - and indeed I am - still setting the scene.


‘Many Lamps' 


The Byam Shaw in the 1960s was at Notting Hill Gate. It was small, friendly and inspirational, with teachers such as Bernard DunstanDiana Armfield and Maurice de Saumarez to encourage me. For my first entry in the RA Summer Exhibition, Bernard even lent - indeed probably gave - me a frame! My leaving diploma thesis compared Vermeer and Vuillard’s interior light but I surprisingly won a David Murray Landscape Scholarship. At 21, I taught art at a small girl’s school in Claygate, started getting portrait commissions, and got married.


I was elected a member of the New English Art Club on the strength of my painting of a ‘Sow with her Piglets’ painted in Suffolk in the 1970s. The buyer recently sent me this photograph:


‘Sow with Piglets' 


Over the years, I have enjoyed many painting trips to France, renting paintable houses with Byam Shaw friends Jane CorsellisDiana Calvert and Annabel Gosling, now also joined by Julia Trotter - a painting friend and Scottish neighbour. I have also painted in Kashmir, China and Antarctica.


At that time, W. H. Patterson gave me many solo shows and the NEAC have been a most supportive club to belong to. I was also incredibly lucky to be taken on by Manya Igel, a much-missed friend and dealer.


Now I am spoilt by Panter and Hall in Pall Mall who have been looking after me for several years and with whom I will be having my next solo show in September, the first for four years. Interiors, of course, French terraces and my garden in the Scottish Borders, all beautifully framed by Christina Leder whose portrait you can see here painted about 20 years ago:


‘Portrait of Christina' 


My forthcoming show is called 'Looking Through'. This is because I have realised over the years that this is very much what painting means to me.


‘Terrace Tables, Perigord' 


Although I so admire artists who create flat exciting shapes with colours and balance, for me it is space and depth. To set a red telephone box far down a snowy street just by thinking it there as I make the mark. The brush cutting-in darkly behind a lit lamp, sending the room back behind it. A view through a distant window leading the eye past the still life. I feel excited even writing about it."


‘The Blue Salon' 


Susan's exhibition 'Looking Through' opens at Panter & Hall in London on 30 September and runs until 16 October.

Find out more about Susan on her artist profile page where you will also find a selection of original paintings available to buy.

July 31, 2020